NHS teacher-coach tapped to lead Amherst recreation department

  • Amherst Town Hall

For the Gazette
Published: 9/15/2021 9:16:02 PM

AMHERST — Longtime Northampton High School teacher-coach Rey Harp was appointed as Amherst’s new recreation director on Monday, nearly a week after Town Manager Paul Bockelman referred him to the Town Council.

Harp will succeed Barbara Bilz, who served as recreation director since 2017 before retiring.

“Rey is a community builder,” Bockelman said, who has taught social studies at Northampton High School for 22 years. Also at the school, Bockelman said, Harp has “coached the boys’ basketball team, and has been the junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach of the girls’ lacrosse team and girls’ field hockey team.”

According to Bockelman, Harp will bring a perspective to the Recreation Department with a “real focus on the well-being of youth.” He said that Harp’s reputation for engaging in the development of children and their families makes him an excellent fit for the job.

“I am thrilled and challenged by this new opportunity to engage with the broader community of Amherst. I know the town well, having lived and worked here for many years,” Harp said in a statement.

Harp graduated with departmental honors from Amherst College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1997. He then went on to earn his master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1999. “To return to the place I started, with young people and families I am still familiar, it is my honor,” Harp said.

Bockelman said that he’s aiming for Harp to start working on Sept. 22, though an official date has not yet been determined.

Once Harp does begin, his top priorities will be to get reacquainted with the Amherst community and hire a new sports director. Then, he’ll focus on “developing programming that is accessible to everyone in the town,” Bockelman said.

In other relevant experience, Harp has served as the camp administrator for the Amherst-based Western Massachusetts Basketball Camp since 2002, focusing on the 8-year-old to 10-year-old division. He is also a board member of Pioneer Valley Restorative Justice for Youth, a community-based group that tries to mend trust after a community experiences suffering.

In total, the Recreation Director Screening Committee received over 50 applications for the position. Of those, nine finalists were given to Bockelman for consideration.

“I thank all who applied and went through the process,” Bockelman said. “I especially want to thank the interview team who worked extended hours in completing their assignment. They offered invaluable insights, observations, and guidance to support my decision.”

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